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Fresh questions over Sam Dastyari’s entitlements as calls grow for foreign donations ban

by admin on 08/09/2019

Kim Carr and Sam Dastyari pose for a picture on Victoria’s 2014 election day. Photo: FacebookIs this Australia’s most connected Chinese donor?
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Sam Dastyari has pointed to his attendance at a Chinese film festival to justify using taxpayer funds to campaign for Labor, even though MPs are banned from using their travel perks for political work.

The embattled Labor senator has gone to ground amid a ferocious government assault, triggered by a Fairfax Media report that he asked a business with links to the Chinese government to pay a $1600 bill after exceeding travel entitlements.

Attorney-General George Brandis even questioned whether Senator Dastyari had “compromised” himself by letting the company pick up the tab.

The former NSW Labor secretary has also come under fire after revelations he backed China’s position on the South China Sea while standing next to another Chinese donor who has previously paid the senator’s legal bills. The mid-election declaration was at odds with Labor’s policy, drawing a strong public rebuke from factional ally Tony Burke on Thursday.

A fresh examination of the senator’s travel logs show he billed taxpayers $650.40 to fly from Sydney to Melbourne on November, 29, 2014 – the day of the Victorian state election. His flight from Melbourne to Canberra the next day cost $516.99.

Senator Dastyari posted a photo of himself on election day “working a booth” with Victorian senator Kim Carr.

The Department of Finance forbids MPs from travelling on the taxpayer’s dime for party-political purposes.

But Senator Dastyari insisted he did not breach the rules because he attended a Chinese film event at the Crown Hotel, where he stayed at the Chinese Film Association’s expense.

“That was the primary purpose of my trip,” he said.

“I had been invited to the event in my capacity as a senator. No Victorians from the opposition were able to attend because of the state election.”

A further review of Senator Dastyari’s register of interests also shows he failed to properly disclose the identity of donors who provided him with tickets to sporting matches, including the A-League, an international Test cricket match and the NRL grand final.

The guidelines for disclosing gifts states: “The source of any gift should be identified by name.”

When asked why the donors had not been named, Senator Dastyari said in a statement the Western Sydney Wanderers and the NRL had provided the tickets to the relevant games and conservative lobbyist David Miles paid for the cricket match. He promised to check with the Clerk of the Senate about his reporting requirements.

It is not the first time Senator Dastyari has been forced to defend using taxpayer fights for Labor Party purposes. Last year it was revealed he charged taxpayers to fly from Sydney to Melbourne, where he attended a rail union protest.

Senator Brandis led the government’s attack on Thursday.

“Senator Dastyari’s acceptance of personal benefits from an entity or entities with links to the Chinese state, and the carefully opaque way in which the payments have been described in the Register of Senators Interests, raises the inevitable question of whether Senator Dastyari — whether advertently or unwittingly — has allowed himself to be compromised,” he said.

“Senator Dastyari needs to answer whether, in fact, he is delivering on the extensive support provided to him.”

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo called for Senator Dastyari to stand down.

The suddenly media-shy senator declined all interviews on Thursday after revelations he asked the Top Education Institute, run by prolific Chinese-Australian businessman Minshen Zhu, to pay his personal debt to the Commonwealth worth $1670.

Things got worse when the Australian Financial Review reported that at a June press conference for Chinese media, Senator Dastyari pledged to respect China’s position in the volatile South China Sea dispute, at odds with the Labor Party’s position.

The senator was also reported as saying “the South China Sea is China’s own affair”. He called on Australia to remain neutral and drop its opposition to China’s air defence zone in the region.

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke slapped down his colleague on television and restated the party’s “crystal clear” stance on the issue.

“All parties should respect international law and we urge restraint and that’s the position and that’s what the answer should have been,” Mr Burke said.

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Panti Bliss, face of Irish marriage equality, says plebiscite might have upside

by admin on 08/09/2019

Panti Bliss, aka Rory O’Neill, in the documentary The Queen of Ireland. Photo: Supplied It’s amazing what a good scandal can do.
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Conor Horgan had been pottering along on his portrait of Irish drag queen Panti Bliss for five years or so, shooting snippets of footage whenever he could raise funding. Then, over the course of a few weeks in 2014, things suddenly exploded.

“I thought, and he thought, we were making a small character documentary,” says Panti’s alter-ego, Rory O’Neill. “Conor started to realise he had a film when I got into trouble on the TV show. And he was absolutely delighted.”

O’Neill’s “trouble” began when he named a few people in the Irish media he believed were homophobic during an appearance on a TV talk show in January 2014. Threatened with a defamation suit, the panicked RTE hastily settled, with payouts reportedly totalling €85,000 ($126,000).

O’Neill was furious at what he saw as the national broadcaster’s cowardice, and three weeks later gave a rousing speech at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. The subject was homophobia and the self-loathing it induces, and Horgan was there to record it.

The next day he posted it on YouTube and it quickly went viral. “He had no trouble getting money after that,” laughs O’Neill.

The film they made together, The Queen of Ireland, charts O’Neill’s rise from small-town boy to the face (as Panti) of Ireland’s marriage equality campaign, via a stint in Japan in the 1980s and a thriving career as a theatre performer and owner of a drag bar in Dublin.

It captures the twin triumphs of Ireland’s yes vote for marriage equality in November 2015 and, on a smaller but no less emotional scale, Panti’s homecoming drag show in Ballinrobe (population 3682) the same year.

Panti with director Conor Horgan.

You might imagine that growing up gay in the oppressively Catholic Ireland of the 1970s might have been horrendous, but not so in O’Neill’s telling.

“In many ways it was quite idyllic, but as a gay kid it was pretty alien – there were absolutely no gays in my life, no gays on the TV, you didn’t have Graham Norton or Boy George. I didn’t even meet a real-life homosexual until I was 18.

“I think from my early teens I realised there was something different about me, but I was so innocent that it took me quite a while to work out what that was. These days I’d be on the internet at 13 watching Brazilian boys having sex, and I’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s me!’ But at the time, no.”

Ireland has changed almost beyond recognition as the moral stranglehold of the church has been weakened by a succession of scandals in the past couple of decades. The world outside may still think of it as a nation in the grip of the priests but, O’Neill says, the reality is quite different.

Nowhere was that more apparent than in the referendum last year that granted marriage equality to LGBT people. It followed a long and sometimes bitter campaign, but at the end of it 62 per cent of voters were in favour of the change.

Celebrating the yes vote with supporters at Dublin Castle, Ireland, on Saturday May 23, 2015.

Unlike Australia, referendums in Ireland are common, and binding. And, says O’Neill, they are always fiercely contested, whatever the question.

So, are people right to fear that the proposed Australian plebiscite on the issue will become a platform for hate speech?

“Absolutely they are,” O’Neill says. “We’re well used to plebiscites, but the question became something bigger: ‘Are you OK with gay people?’ So if you spend six months walking down the streets seeing posters saying you make horrible parents or your relationships are worthless or whatever, and every time you turn on the radio or open a newspaper there are people saying horrible things about you, that can become very tiring, wearing, depressing. It’s a really unpleasant experience.”

That said, there is an upside to a plebiscite, he says. “It feels like that debate is over, done, finished and settled now. Nobody can claim it was brought in by a political elite – the whole country decided on it. All the worst things that could be said were said and got out into the open, and still the result was an emphatic yes. And that has been really powerful for the gay community.

“Since the day of the result,” he says, “the LGBTI community is very secure and confident of their place in Irish society, in a way they weren’t before and in a way I think they wouldn’t be if it had just been brought in by politicians.”

So, are you saying a plebiscite might not be so bad after all?

“I’m still not going to recommend it,” he says emphatically. “It is unpleasant, and difficult and in your case so unnecessary and expensive. And if you don’t get the right answer you’re going to have to wait ages to do it again.”

The Queen of Ireland opens September 8

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World Cup qualifiers: Ange Postecoglou always confident that goals would come as Iraq wilted

by admin on 08/09/2019

Australia had made all the running, huffed and puffed but had failed to break down a stubborn Iraqi resistance by half-time in their opening World Cup qualifier in Perth.
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But coach Ange Postecoglou was hardly concerned, so confident was he that the Middle Eastern team would run out of stamina as they tried to defend against constant Australian pressure.

And when Massimo Luongo and Tomi Juric scored a goal apiece shortly before and shortly after the hour mark, he was far from surprised.

The win put Australia on a solid path to the World Cup in Russia, although they now face a tough task in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST) when they face a confident UAE side in Abu Dhabi.

Conditions will be hot and difficult, and the UAE will be cock a hoop after their shock 2-1 win in their opening qualifier in Japan.

Still, Postecoglou is happy just to focus on his own side.

“I was pleased with both our performance and the result. I knew they would make it difficult for us.

“We got off to a really great start. We probably should have had a goal in the first 20 seconds. I thought we controlled the tempo of the game.

“They were working hard to try and stop us and I knew we would eventually wear them down.

“They were clocking up the kilometres, but at some point we knew they would run out of petrol because you can’t keep going at that pace.

“In the second half we scored two, we hit the post, Tomi [Juric] had a very good chance, their keeper pulled off a couple of great saves. All in all against a difficult opponent I thought it was a good start.”

Juric had a game of highs and lows, missing a clear-cut chance but setting up Luongo’s first goal and scoring the second himself.

“I thought him and Lecks [Mathew Leckie] were really good up front, they worked hard, created opportunities, continually asked questions of the opposition.

“We were going to make the substitution before the corner but we decided to leave him [Juric] on for that hoping he could get a touch on it … it was just a reward more than anything for his good play.”

Socceroos v Iraq: Ange Postecoglou always confident goals would come in World Cup qualifier

by admin on 08/09/2019

Australia made all the running, huffed and puffed but failed to break down a stubborn Iraqi resistance at half-time in their opening World Cup qualifier in Perth.
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But coach Ange Postecoglou was hardly concerned, so confident was he that the Middle Eastern team would run out of stamina as they tried to defend against constant Australian pressure.

And when Massimo Luongo and Tomi Juric scored a goal apiece shortly before and shortly after the hour mark, he was far from surprised.

The win puts Australia on a solid path to the World Cup in Russia, although they now face a tough task in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST) when they face a confident UAE side in Abu Dhabi.

Conditions will be hot and difficult, and the UAE will be cock-a-hoop after their shock 2-1 win in their opening qualifier in Japan.

Still, Postecoglou is happy just to focus on his own side.

“I was pleased with both our performance and the result. I knew they would make it difficult for us.

“We got off to a really great start. We probably should have had a goal in the first 20 seconds. I thought we controlled the tempo of the game.

“They were working hard to try and stop us and I knew we would eventually wear them down. “They were clocking up the kilometres, but at some point we knew they would run out of petrol because you can’t keep going at that pace.

“In the second half we scored two, we hit the post, Tomi (Juric) had a very good chance, their keeper pulled off a couple of great saves. All in all against a difficult opponent I thought it was a good start.”

Juric had a game of highs and lows, missing a clear cut chance but setting up Luongo’s first goal and scoring the second himself.

“I thought him and Lecks (Mathew Leckie) were really good up front, they worked hard, created opportunities, continually asked questions of the opposition.

“We were going to make the substitution before the corner but we decided to leave him (Juric) on for that hoping he could get a touch on it … it was just a reward more than anything for his good play.

Australian accused of child sex tourism arrested in the Philippines

by admin on 08/09/2019

Alleged paedophile Peter Gerard Scully, 52, is arraigned in the Philippines. Photo: Joseph Ben R. DevezaAn Iranian-born Australian accused of child sex tourism and possessing child pornography in the Philippines had travelled 65 times to Asian nations in 18 months, police say.
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The arrest of Farhanipour Gholamreza, 50, after he had allegedly paid money to a 13 year-old Philippine girl will bolster a call by newly elected Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch​ to strip convicted sex offenders of their passports.

Australian Federal Police say 15 of the trips that Mr Gholamreza made were to the Philippines, a popular destination for foreign paedophiles where there is a booming trade in online child pornography.

Records show he also visited China, Singapore and Thailand.

Senator Hinch told the Melbourne Press Club in August that as the Immigration Department withdraws the passports of bankrupts it should do the same for sex offenders.

“Now they’re not going there for the sun, they’re going there for the sons and daughters,” he said.

Police allege that Mr Gholamreza arrived in the Philippines from Sydney on August 19 to meet the 13 year-old girl whom he met through Facebook.

Police allege that Mr Gholamreza lured the girl to send explicit naked photos to him through a messaging system with the promise of money.

Facebook personnel informed authorities when they discovered the photographs.

“It’s a protocol of Facebook to monitor all the chat logs and they came upon the account of this minor (girl) chatting with an Australian national,” police superintendent Rosauro Acio told reporters.

“The victim had long been providing explicit images.”

Police allege that Mr Gholamreza twice transferred money to the girl before arriving in the Philippines where he tried to set-up a meeting outside of Manila.

But they lost contact because the Facebook account was closed.

Police and child social workers then set up a sting operation in which a police agent posed as a friend of Mr Gholamreza to facilitate a meeting between the girl and Mr Gholamreza, police allege.

As the girl’s mother went to collect money from a branch of Western Union she was detained and her daughter taken into the care of social workers.

Mr Gholamreza was arrested as he was about to fly out of Manila international airport and is seeking legal assistance.

Police said Mr Gholamreza will face charges either under Anti-child Pornography Act or the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act.

Australian Federal Police data shows that more than 2,700 registered sex offenders have travelled from Australia in the past five years.

Around 250 of them travelled to the Philippines in 2014 alone.

Meanwhile, authorities say the trial of alleged Melbourne child-porn kingpin Peter Scully, who was arrested in the Philippines last year, will be held behind closed doors to protect children he is accused of abusing.

Mr Scully, 53, pleaded not guilty to some of the most shocking child-sex crimes in Philippine history at pre-trial hearing on June 27, including raping an 18-month old baby and murdering a 12 year-old girl.

Eight alleged girl victims of Scully are being cared for under witness protection pending the trial.

Two others have returned to the care of their parents after receiving psychotherapy treatment.

The allegations against Mr Scully, who left Melbourne in 2011 after being accused of fraud and deception, have prompted calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty in the Philippines.

Tomi Juric helps Socceroos to victory over Iraq at NIB Stadium

by admin on 07/08/2019

Tomi Juric of Australia celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the Australian Socceroos. Photo: Will RussellA goal and assist from Socceroos striker Tomi Juric was enough to grab a 2-0 win over Iraq in the opening game of the final qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup at Nib Stadium on Thursday.
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A high possession first half to the Socceroos left little to the imagination with a number of missed chances – although a couple counter-attacking scares from the visitors, did leave a feeling of concern for the home crowd at the half time break.

It was looking to be the type of night for Juric where hard work was only going to lead to missed opportunities, but a second half spree from the striker gave life to the 18,923 crowd.

Juric missed a close range sitter from a low Mathew Leckie cross, but the 25-year-old was able to redeem himself soon after.

The striker was able to create a stunning assist for Massimo Luongo, who blasted the pass into the net for the opening goal on the 58-minute mark.

The Socceroos striker soon made the game into his night with his third international goal as he poked home from close range on the back of Aaron Mooy’s corner that was helped on by Mark Milligan.

Ironically he was subbed off right after the celebration to finish the game on a high.

A win for the Socceroos was critical, with the likes of an away clash to the UAE, then back to Melbourne against Japan. Juric showcased the home team’s intent – almost opening the score seconds after kick off.

The number nine’s shot forced keeper Mohammed Hameed into a save 15 seconds after the start, but the shot blasted into the Iraq keeper.

Past the quarter hour Iraq warmed into the game for a brief period, a diving block from Mark Milligan on the end of an Ali Husni shot inside the box preventing an opening goal for the visitors.

The momentum quickly swung back to Australia, which dominated possession in the first half with 76.9 per cent of it.

Leckie was unfortunate not to register a fourth international goal following a jumping header that crashed on the inside of the woodwork and back out.

It was a simular result minutes later for Mile Jedninak, his header flying over the crossbar on the end of a Mooy cross.

Following Juric’s second half moments the Socceroos were able to take control of the game after the second goal, but failed to capitalise on their dominance to see out a 2-0 win.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Socceroos with their next match away to the United Arab Emirates.

Their next home game will be in Melbourne against Japan in October.

World Cup qualifiers: Australia get off to a solid start with 2-0 win over Iraq

by admin on 07/08/2019

The Socceroos got off to a solid start on the road to Russia with a 2-0 win over Iraq at Perth’s NIB Stadium in their opening World Cup qualifier of the final Asian phase.
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Second-half goals to Massimo Luongo and Tomi Juric ensured three points for Ange Postecoglou’s men. The teams went to the interval on level terms after Australia hit the bar and created a number of chances that were not converted.

They now travel to Abu Dhabi for a game against the United Arab Emirates in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST), a fixture that will be a test of this squad’s depth and resilience given the heat and travel involved.

Australia almost got off to a dream start with a goal inside the first 10 seconds as the Socceroos drove forward straight from the kick-off.

Tom Rogic’s pass found Juric in front of goal with just Mohammed Hameed to beat, but the goalkeeper was able to turn away the Swiss-based striker’s shot.

Postecoglou’s men kept up their breakneck pace in the opening exchanges, with Aaron Mooy, Mile Jedinak, Mathew Leckie and Milos Degenek linking well down the right only for the fullback’s cross to be blocked.

Both Degenek on the right and Brad Smith, the Bournemouth left back, were getting forward on the flanks to provide width at every opportunity.

Aaron Mooy looked distinctly combative – perhaps a side-effect of his move to the robust English championship where he has been starring for pacesetters Huddersfield Town.

But the shaven-headed midfielder was farcically booked after just 10 minutes when Faisal Al Hisnay threw himself to the ground after what seemed the merest of touches.

Australia made all the early running, and Smith cut back to Luongo only for the QPR midfielder to drive wide.

The Socceroos, however, then went off the boil slightly as too many passes began to go astray and the possession was given away through turnovers, allowing Iraq to regroup and get numbers behind the ball.

Still, the Arab nation posed little threat until the 24th minute, when Mark Milligan, pressed into service in this game as a central defender, had to slide across and provide a crucial covering tackle to deny Al Hisnay the chance of a shot after the forward was played into space. From the corner Alaa Ali Mhawi blazed over.

Leckie was desperately unlucky not to put his side in front in the 28th minute when he hit the bar with a header from a Smith cross after the fullback had been played into space by Rogic.

Five minutes later Luongo went close when his slaloming run carried him past several challenges in the Iraq penalty area only for his shot to be blocked. From a short corner just afterwards Jedinak headed over from Mooy’s cross.

The Iraqis grew in confidence the longer they kept a clean sheet and showed they too could be dangerous on the break when Ahmed Yaseen Gheni shot just wide.

In the second half, Australia continued to search for an opening and Postecoglou’s men almost got it in the 55th minute when Mooy’s slashing first-time drive cannoned off the woodwork after Leckie’s pass found him in space.

Ali Abbas, the former Sydney FC wide man, then tested Mat Ryan for the first time with a long-range drive that the goalkeeper flung himself to the left to deal with.

But just seconds later Luongo got the goal that Australia had been desperately seeking, sweeping the ball into the roof of the net after Juric, who had earlier missed an easy close-range opportunity, slid a pass across goal.

Luongo’s effort came in the 58th minute, and Australia  doubled the lead in the 64th minute when, from Mooy’s corner the ball was flicked on by Milligan for Juric to finish.

Juric’s reward was to be immediately substituted for Robbie Kruse – not often that a player scores in a World Cup game with his last touch of the ball.

Rogic drove forward to create space only to have his shot blocked as Australia went in search of a third to bolster their goal difference in a tightly matched group where such niceties may play a part.

Fiji, Australia in talks to add Fiji team to National Rugby Championship

by admin on 07/08/2019

Western Sydney Rams coach John Mugggleton, second-rower Will Skelton and assistant coach Jeremy Paul. Photo: Quentin Jones Waratahs forward Senio Toleafoa trains with the Rams. Photo: Quentin Jones
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 The Fiji Rugby Union is in talks with their Australian counterparts and World Rugby about entering a Fijian team in the National Rugby Championship as early as next season.

The team would be based on the island and play home and away games under a possible expanded NRC competition in 2017, and would be made up of Fiji-based players.

The plan, hatched some months ago by Fiji coach John McKee, ARU high performance boss Ben Whitaker and World Rugby high performance general manager Peter Horne, would see World Rugby fund the team under its Oceania program.

It is still some months off official approval but would represent a major coup by the ARU. Australia and New Zealand are often criticised for drawing players from the region but doing little to help Pacific Island nations strengthen their own programs.

Fiji see joining the NRC as a way to help stem the talent drain from the island nation by building their own pathway for home grown players. Eventually, they hope it will also help lure back players plying their trade all over Europe.

The move comes as the Western Sydney Rams prepare to welcome to their roster high profile new recruit and Fiji sevens Olympic gold medallist, Vatemo Ravouvou, who has represented Fiji more than 100 times in sevens and scored 44 tries in the 2015/16 World Series.

Ravouvou and Fiji Warriors player Cyril Reece are waiting on visa approval, expected this week, before they fly out to join the Rams for their next home game against Perth Spirit, at Concord Oval next week. They will join Wallaby Will Skelton and Waratahs Hugh Roach and Senio Toleafoa in the Rams squad.

Rams coach John Muggleton says the prospect of Fiji joining the NRC would be a major boost for the country and for the game in western Sydney, which is home to the largest population of Fijians in the world outside Fiji.

“There is great potential out here for Australian rugby that it hasn’t tapped, but also for World Rugby,” he said. “This is a big catchment area for the islands and if people can play for clubs out here and we can offer a pathway, there’s no reason why people should be going to the islands and just stealing their players.”

Thanks to the hard work of Muggleton and Rams tournament director Milo Arona, rugby appears to be enjoying a long overdue mini-renaissance in western Sydney.

The pair, aided by former Wallaby and Rams co-coach Jeremy Paul, are staging a Pacific Islands tournament as curtain raisers to Rams home games across the NRC season, with the NSW Fijian, Samoan, Tongan and New Zealand Maori communities agreeing to take part.

In a sign of the huge latent interest in the area, more than 200 people turned up to trial for the NSW Samoa side, forcing the NSW Samoa Rugby Union to cut off registrations early and run 14 trial teams across seven games.

“I knew it would be big but I didn’t expect it to be that big,” Arona said. “The Pacific Island nations have always known that rugby is our first sport, so [staging this tournament] is a no-brainer. If you look at the Wallabies, half the team are Pacific Islanders and a third of them are from western Sydney. We all know it in our community, but nobody says it.”

Among the aspirants were 60 rugby league players who, Muggleton said, grew up playing rugby but switched to league because clubs out west offered them $50 a game.

“There’s great potential out here for rugby that it hasn’t tapped,” he said. “If World Rugby were serious about the player drain in the Pacific Islands they would set up an academy in western Sydney and tap into the massive populations here, and they’d do the same in south Auckland,” he said.

North Stars share secret to their success

by admin on 07/08/2019

Newcastle may seem like the unlikely home to Australia’s most successful ice hockey side but that is exactly the case.
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The North Stars cemented themselves as the premier club for ice hockey when they claimed back-to-back championships in the Australian Ice Hockey League last monthand, in the process,their sixth national crown.

DOMINANT: The Newcastle North Stars after collecting a record sixth Australian Ice Hockey League championship. Picture: Mark Bradford

Newcastle North Stars general manager Garry Dore has been on board since the town’s ice hockey venture began and said the secret to their success was what they offered players.

Dore said that was a combination of an envious Newcastle lifestyle, passionate administration and a strong development program.

“We set up the ice rink back in 2000 and one of the goals was to get the sports of ice hockey and figure skating going, and they both grew so quickly, ice hockey in particular,” Dore said.“We had a lot of ex-pat Canadians and Americans in Newcastle and they really helped develop it …We brought out a professional coach to teach us at that level how to be competitive and how to win and how to recruit and develop.”

That coach was Rob Barnes and he took the North Stars to victory in 2003.

“Over the next 10 or 11 years we focused on his principles and ideas and systems and we recruited very well,” Dore said.

“Newcastle is an attraction to import players because of the beach and the lifestyle.They really love Newcastle and they can enjoy what we have to offer and we take really good care of them.

“But we expect them to give a lot back to our younger guys and girls coming through,we really drove that very hard …our local players are actually making an impact now.”

Dore said six championships out of 12 seasons was“pretty awesome”. The North Stars have also won five minor premierships.

“They’ve been playing ice hockey in Australia since 1906,” Dore said.“In Melbourne they have eight clubs, in Adelaide they have four clubs, in WesternAustralia they have three rinks, in Sydney they have eight clubs.

“Wehave one club, so we’re really quite vulnerable and so we arevery protective of our development; we have to make sure we give guys a reason to play and I think we do that very well.”

Dore said the input of AIHL players in theNorth Stars Academy was“taking hockey in Newcastle to a new level”.

“We’re the benchmark,” Dore said.

“At the final the other general managers and team owners were asking the question, ‘What are you doing to keep getting it right?’

“If you’ve got the right people, doing the right things, believing in them, you won’t win every year but you always have impact.”

NSW government admits to looking at changing operators for 70 years of school camps

by admin on 07/08/2019

Milson Island Sport and Recreation Centre at the Hunter. Photo: Nic Bailey NSW Premier Mike Baird. Photo: Edwina Pickles
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Premier Mike Baird’s reputation as a penny pincher on Macquarie Street is legendary and one developed before he took the top job.

But it seems not even beloved school camps are safe from his government’s privatisation push.

The NSW government is considering privatising the operation of sports and recreation centres that have initiated generations of Sydney schoolchildren into the outdoors.

The government admitted this week it is floating “market testing” and “consultation” about the centres’ future management, which the opposition says are an obvious prelude to privatisation.

For up to 70 years, the “sport and rec” camps have been an integral initiation into NSW schools and the outdoors. Bushwalking, orienteering, archery, abseiling and evading so many spiders who inhabited cabin walls.

The government denies plans are so advanced. It says options are being investigated and has noted that it would not sell any land, merely the right to operate the centres, which would likely go to an NGO.

But the problem in the government eyes is the centres are too costly. Last year they ran at a $2.6 million loss, though the government notes their management is improving.

“How much profit should we be expected to make from the education sector, particularly physical education at a time of rising obesity and diabetes,” said Anne Gardiner the general secretary of the Public Service Association.

Critics argue public health and outdoor activity is a public good that requires expenditure at a time of high investment in elite sport and when children are spending increasing amounts of time watching various screens.

“These cater for lower socio-economic kids; private schools have their own,” said Associate Professor Tonia Gray from the University of Western Sydney, an expert in children’s activity and public health. “It’s an investment in their [health]. We don’t expect National Parks to make money.”

Labor frontbencher Lynda Voltz said the government was coming close to “putting a price on the great outdoors”.

“This government is determined to sell everything in this state and Sport and Recreation camps are just the next item on its hit list,” she said.

Fewer than 70,000 NSW school children take camps or excursions to the 11 centres, which are built around areas such as the state’s North Coast, Snowy Mountains and South Coast.

Nearly 120,000 members of the community use the halls each year, including for sporting events.

“The Office of Sport is investigating service delivery model improvements for Sport and Recreation Centres across NSW,” a spokeswoman for Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said. The government said it would not sell any land and was considering major upgrades of some facilities including a water jump ramp at Jindabyne.

Attendance at the centres is up 15 per cent year-on-year and 95 per cent of those surveyed would recommend the centres to a friend.

Ms Gardiner argued NGO or any non-government management would be pressured to cut services offered or vulnerable to later corporate take overs.